How You Can Use Lapse to Share and Take Photos From Your Digital Darkroom
Tried-and-tested tips, plus everything else you need to know about the trending social media app.
Katelyn ChedraouiAssociate Writer
Katelyn is an associate writer with CNET's services and software team. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in media and journalism. She believes in the transformative power of digital platforms, tools and communication to increase accessibility to information and the even-more transformative power of a good cup of coffee.
In an era dominated by videos on TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube shorts, Lapse wants to return to picture-based social media. And it has a unique, sometimes retro approach for how to do that.
Lapse is a social media app currently ranked No. 2 in top free apps for iPhones in the Apple App Store. The app is inspired by the days of disposable cameras, letting you take photos using its camera but then making you wait for the photos to be developed in your digital darkroom. The final pictures have a distinct, saturated look.
Lapse also tries to let you curate your social feed that has more of a small community feel, like Instagram's Close Friends lists, and encourages content to be more authentic, like BeReal. There are even parts of your profile, called your Journal, that feel like a throwback to the days of MySpace and early Facebook.
I've been using my Lapse for the past few weeks, and I've loved it. I have found that the delayed gratification when taking photos is relaxing, and it makes for a fun surprise later when they're developed and ready. From an aesthetic standpoint, the photos are unique -- on a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the filter highlighted the fall colors so well. When I scroll through my social feed, it's not clogged with news organizations, sponsored ads or accounts I don't follow. It's just my friends, and I can easily tap through their Rolls like an Instagram story, only cleaner.
In short, Lapse's retro throwback has a lot to offer. But because it has so much, it can be overwhelming while signing up or first trying to navigate it. Its sign-up process is lengthy, likely in an attempt to be thorough, but it doesn't come with too much information about why each step is necessary (or not).
Through my research and testing of the app, I've found several workarounds for the most annoying sign-up demands and tips to customize your Journal. There's also a FAQ if, like me, you couldn't find the information you were looking for on Lapse's website.
Here's everything you need to know about Lapse before you sign up and how to get the most out of it once you do.
What is Lapse?
Lapse is an iPhone app that lets you take film-like photos using its camera and then post them on your social feed. It encourages smaller social feeds with its "friends not followers" philosophy and aims for an authentic feel for its photos, which follow a similar, digitized process to that of a disposable camera.
Lapse lets you take "snaps" through its camera. It then sends your photos to your personal digital Darkroom, like you would do with film or disposable photos -- you won't be able to see the finished product until Lapse notifies you that your photos are ready. You can then decide whether to share those finished photos in social posts called Rolls, meant to act like photo dumps. Or you can decide to archive snaps to be stored on your profile, called your Journal.
What to know before joining Lapse
Before you start using your Lapse, there are two things you need to know. First, Lapse is only compatible with iOS, which means that if you're not an iPhone user, you won't be able to download and use the app. It's currently available for users in the US, Canada and the UK. Lapse also asks you during your sign-up to confirm that you are at least 13 years old.
Secondly, despite some language online about the app being invite-only, you don't need to wait to receive an invite link before joining Lapse. Anyone can download Lapse from the Apple App Store and create an account, Lapse co-founder Dan Silvertown confirmed to CNET in an email. In our testing, we found that the account creation process is virtually identical whether you use an invite link, scan the QR code on Lapse's website or just search for the app in the App Store.
Tips to simplify your Lapse sign up
The account creation process for Lapse feels more complicated than necessary and sparse with explanations. Here's what you need to know to simplify things and skip certain sections.
1. Set up your Lapse notifications
The first thing Lapse is going to prompt you to do when you open the app is allow it to send you notifications. We recommend you allow this function so you're alerted when your photos are developed and ready. You can always change your notification preferences by going into your iPhone's Settings > Notifications > Lapse.
2. Avoid syncing your contacts and sending invites
Next, Lapse is going to want you to grant access to your camera, photo library and contacts. You won't be able to get around granting camera access, but you can limit photo library access by selecting that option in the pop-up notification when you get to that stage.
Because Lapse says that syncing your contacts is an important part of its service, you will have to toggle permission on to continue signing up. However, if you don't actually want to sync your contacts with Lapse, you can choose Don't Allow in the second pop-up notification from Apple asking you to confirm whether you want to share your contacts with Lapse.
You can also avoid inviting your contacts to join Lapse. When prompted to invite at least five friends, tap Help in the upper left corner. This will give you two options: Report bug or Skip invites. By tapping this skip option, you can move on without inviting people to join.
3. Understand your Lapse display name and username
Lapse is also going to ask you to create a display name and a username, but it doesn't do a great job of explaining the difference. Your display name is what will be displayed to your friends in your feed, while your username is your "@" that is tied to your whole account. For example, your display name can be your nickname accompanied by emojis, but your username needs to be unique from other users.
4. Set up a Lapse lock screen widget
Before you can use your account, Lapse will ask you to add a widget to your lock screen. Lock screen widgets are icons that will take you directly to an app -- in Lapse's case, it will automatically open up its camera.
Personally, I've enjoyed having quick access to its camera, and I've found the little smiley face icon on my lock screen to be fairly unobtrusive. But if you don't want to set up a lock screen widget, or you don't want to do it while you're signing up, there's an easy workaround. When you get to that screen, tap Help in the upper right corner, then tap I'm having trouble, then tap Back, and then you should be able to use your Lapse.
If you later decide you do want to add this widget, you can add it back by going into your Journal, tapping the three dots in the upper left corner and going through the prompts under Lock screen shutter.
If you do set up the widget and later you want to remove the Lapse widget from your home screen, go into your iPhone's Settings > Wallpaper > Current. Tap your lock screen, then tap the Lapse widget and delete it by tapping the minus sign in the upper left corner.
What to know about navigating Lapse
Now that you have a Lapse account, there are three main areas that you're going to want to get to know: Journal, Darkroom and Feed.
Your Journal is your profile. The first time you log in, Lapse will walk you through customizing yours as much or as little as you want. Lapse's Journals have an amalgamation of the most popular features of many social media platforms, old and new. You can add all the usual suspects like your profile picture and bio, as well as a ring of emojis around your profile picture, your birthday (displayed only as your zodiac sign) and your school.
The other features of your Journal are Selects and music. Selects are existing photos that you choose to upload to your Journal. Lapse will then add its film filter to them and create a looped video that plays on your profile, similar to a TikTok or Instagram Reel. You can also add a song to your Journal, a fun throwback to the days of MySpace.
Your Darkroom is your digital development studio -- it's where your photos live while Lapse "develops" them. When I used Lapse, my photos developed anywhere between 20 minutes and one hour after I took them. When your photos are ready to be viewed, Lapse will send you a notification to go to your Darkroom, which you can access by tapping the icon to the left of the camera capture button.
You can view your snaps in the Darkroom by pressing the orange Hold and see button. Lapse will then take you through each, and you can decide whether to archive (swipe left) or post each photo (swipe right).
Note that archived photos are still public in your Journal -- it just won't appear in your friends' social feeds. You can delete any photo by finding it in your Journal and tapping the three dots in the upper right corner to reveal a short menu, including Delete, Add to album and Tag your friends.
Your Feed is just like any other social media feed. It's organized semi-chronologically, and it prompts you with emojis reactions custom to each photo your friend posts.
And that's it! You've made it through Lapse's onerous account-creation process, hopefully avoiding too much stress. Now, Lapse is going to be much easier to use and you're free to snap away.
How does Lapse work?
Lapse is a social media app that lets you take photos through its camera, develops them in its digital darkroom, and then allows you to post to your social feeds or archive on your profile called your Journal. The photos have a unique filter on them that's similar to those taken on disposable cameras.
Who owns Lapse?
Lapse was founded by brothers Ben and Dan Silvertown in 2021. It reached the No. 1 spot in the Apple App Store in October 2023, according to a Medium post by the company. At the time of publication, it's currently No. 2 under top free apps for iPhones.
How do I delete my Lapse account?
Go into your Journal, tap the three dots in the upper left corner, then scroll down until you see Delete account.